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Senior Spotlight: Dartanion Hope

Senior Spotlight: Dartanion Hope

a group of smiling campers with dart.

Dartanion worked to make camp fun for everyone.

When I think of Dartanion Hope, I have to smile. His is a life story riddled with challenges, the kind you read about in books or watch on TV docudramas. But he doesn’t focus on the negatives. He’s a happy kid with an infectious positive outlook on life and something of a mischievous nature. If I were to describe him in single words, I’d use ones like helpful, kind, thoughtful, independent, unassuming, nonjudgmental, and amazing – in the truest sense of the word.

Even with a bright future and military career ahead of him, Dartanion, or Dart, as we call him in the 4-H world, is in fact, a true success already. He would thank his mom, but I try to remind him that she can’t make his choices for him. He has chosen and continues to choose to be the person he’s become. I think his mom would agree.

If I’m being honest, it’s hard to measure how much 4-H has meant in determining the person Dart has become. A little? A lot? It’s tough to say, because he’s a measure of so many great experiences and opportunities – track, cross country, church, you get the idea. But 4-H certainly has been a place where we’ve seen the manifestations of a natural leader come into play. I’m definitely going to tell people he’s one of my 4-H’ers, like a proud mama would claim her own son, whenever I get the chance.

couselors and staff work to untangle fishing gear

Dart works with others at camp to help untangle fishing gear prior to a sports fishing class.

Dart started coming to 4-H day camps when he was young. Eventually I got him to Camp Timpoochee for county camp week. He was a rambunctious tyke with unbelievable stories like having to be extracted from a fork in a tree by the local volunteer fire department using the jaws of life. He’d become so tightly wedged into the gap, he couldn’t get out otherwise. Or the time his front teeth were knocked out when his older brother practiced a wrestling move on him and didn’t realize he’d accidentally rendered him unconscious and dropped him face first into the floor. These stories, which were frightening to a young 4-H agent, I later found out from his parents, attending firemen, and physicians, were not tall tales, but were indeed ALL true. I probably should have been more scared to take Dart so far from home for a whole week, but we made it!  And he came back again and again until he became a camp counselor, the best counselor I could have asked for.

Dartanion and other senior counselors with their senior counselor grommets.

Dart as a Senior Counselor at Camp Timpoochee

You see, during Dart’s first year as a Camp Counselor, I had just lost one of the most respected and dependable male camp counselors in Calhoun County 4-H due to graduation.  As summer camp approached, I was a little worried how my crop of ALL first-year counselors would pull it off without his leadership. But Dart rose to the challenge. It was one of those rare and gratitude rendering experiences, when a person truly turns on their responsibility gene and shocks you with their maturity and poise. He was such an impressive counselor that he was invited back to state open enrollment camps as a counselor. This is an invite only gig. You have to impress camp staff and the resident director during your county camp week to get the ask, and he got it more than once. He totally deserved it. He was conscientious, fun, and made sure all of his campers were included. He became one of my most requested counselors by campers and parents, and they were sad to see him receive his senior counselor grommet last year.

It wasn’t his last trip to Timpoochee though. Thankfully, his busy schedule worked out so that he could join the NW District Teen Retreat Planning team with three of his camp counselor friends. Not only was he on planning calls with other district teens, but he spent extra hours planning and leading two different workshops for attendees with his county peers. He volunteered the group to stay late after meetings to help me double check plans and make decisions.  They made extra trips to the office to help me pack and load equipment. And on that weekend, they did A LOT of running for me to help make sure things went well. He wasn’t the only super star of the weekend by any means. That entire planning committee was chock full of them. But once again, he was a standout leader. I was proud of him and hugely grateful for this last chance to shine with 4-H before his graduation.

group of youth in funny poses with cleaning supplies

Dart logged hundreds of service hours, but he never once acted like it was work.

I’ve been very blessed in my career to be impressed by a lot of young people. And today is no exception. I want Dart to get the praises he so deserves.  Dart deserves to hear again that I am proud of him; that Calhoun County 4-H is proud of him; that he has lifelong friends in 4-H regardless of where life takes him; that we wish him all the best; and truly, that he is a prime example of how 4-H takes the best and makes them better. Congratulations Dart! We absolutely wish you the best of luck!

To find out more information about 4-H programs that can offer essential life skills such as independence, organizational skills, and goal setting, to your children or to volunteer with 4-H, please contact your local UF IFAS County Extension Office, or visit

Hearts of Service

Hearts of Service

Paper hands craft project to express a message of love and caring.

Service-learning projects can be quite simple and still send a big message.

In 4-H, we try to instill compassion and an attitude of service in our members.  One way we do this is through service projects we often refer to as “service-learning”.  We believe that as youth participate in acts of service, they learn to be more caring and are more likely to make positive contributions to their communities as they mature.  Some service-learning projects are more involved, but others can be quite simple.

As we celebrate the month of love, let’s each consider small and simple ways we can inspire youth to serve others with all of their Heart.



Acts of Service

Here are a few ideas to get you thinking:

  • Send cards to loved ones through the mail.
  • Take cards to nursing homes or assisted living facilities.
  • Trace hands on paper and cut them out. Write encouraging messages like “with love” or “because I love you” on the cutouts. Do small acts of service for family and friends and leave the prints behind as a note to let them know you’re thinking of them.
  • Experiment for a week. Try smiling at everyone you meet and see what happens.
  • Leave kind notes in a sibling or parent’s lunchbox or on their pillows.
  • Read or play a game with someone you love or who needs our love.
  • As a club, beautify a part of your community by planting flowers or hosting a trash pick up day.
  • Bake cookies or take treats to a neighbor.

By encouraging 4-H youth to serve in any large or small way they can, we help them build essential life skills.  If you have other ideas you’d like to share or have success stories, please visit our Facebook page and leave comments for us.  We love to hear how you’re working “To Make the Best Better.”

For more information on service projects or other 4-H programs that build essential life skills in youth, please contact your local UF IFAS County Extension Office, or visit

Register Now for State Marine Camp!

Register Now for State Marine Camp!

by Laura Tiu | Jan 10, 2020 | Laura is a UF/IFAS Sea Grant Agent in Okaloosa and Walton Counties in the Panhandle of Florida

Discovery in the bay is one of the highlights of Marine Camp.

Are you interested in learning about marine life, going fishing, or exploring the underwater world with a mask and snorkel? If so, Marine Camp is the camp for you! This opportunity for budding marine scientists will be happening this summer at Camp Timpoochee in Niceville, FL.   Marine camp enables participants to explore the marine and aquatic ecosystems of Northwest Florida; especially that of the Choctawhatchee Bay. Campers get to experience Florida’s marine environment through fishing, boating snorkeling, games, STEM (science, technology, engineering & math) activities and other outdoor adventures. University of Florida Sea Grant Marine Agents and State 4-H Staff partner to provide hands-on activities exploring and understanding the coastal environment.

If Marine Camp sounds interesting to you or someone you know, visit the Camp Timpoochee website at for the 2020 dates and registration instructions. The camps fill up quickly, so early registration is encouraged. Marine Camp is open to 4-H members and non 4-H members between the ages of 8-12 (Junior Camp) and ages 13-17 (Senior Camp). In the summer of 2020, there will be the following Marine Camps:

2020 Marine Camps:

  • Senior Camp – June 22-26
  • Junior Camp – July 13-17
  • Junior Camp – July 20-24

The cost for Senior Camp is $350 for the week and $300 for Junior Camp. A daily snack from the canteen and a summer camp T-shirt are included in the camp fees, along with three nutritious meals per day prepared on site by our certified food safety staff. All cabins are air-conditioned. So many surprises await at Marine Camp, come join the fun!

Valentine’s Day
Marine-Themed Craft 

Just in time for Valentine’s day, this site has some free, printable, marine-themed Valentines!

For more information on the 2020 State Marine Camps, your county’s residential summer camp, or other 4-H programs, please contact your local UF IFAS County Extension Office, or visit

This article was adapted from Laura’s original post to the Panhandle Outdoors website.  To read the original article click here:

Teen Retreat Registration is Now Open

The theme for Teen Retreat 2020 is “4-H Through the Decades”.

Online registration for 4-H teen retreat is now open at If you’re an existing 4-H member, login as usual and register for this event.  New 4-H’ers will need to create a family profile. You may contact your local extension office for help with this process.

Teen retreat is a weekend of fun and life skill building for youth ages 13-18 as of Sept 1, 2019. The retreat will be held February 21-23 at 4-H Camp Timpoochee and registration will be $90 per person through January 31st and $150 from February 1 to February 8.  Registration includes lodging, meals, and an official teen retreat t-shirt.  Please review the packing list for ideas of what to pack.  We hope to fill camp with teens excited about teen retreat and making new friends as they learn and grow together!

For more information on teen retreat or other 4-H programs please contact your local County Extension Office.

Teen Retreat 2020 T-shirt Design Contest Winner Announced

The winning design by Evelyn, Madelyn, and Jayda.

Thank you to everyone who submitted a design for the Teen Retreat 2020 T-shirt Design Contest! With six designs to choose from, teens across the district met Tuesday, November 19th to vote on their favorite.  This design by the Bay County delegation of Evelyn, Madelyn, and Jada rose to the top and the team will be awarded a $50 scholarship to teen retreat.  We are very proud of all of our designers who submitted and can’t wait to see everyone at Teen Retreat 2020!